Jeremy Irons and Laurie Anderson star in an eclectic mix

Borris – a picturesque village in County Carlow – is off the beaten track and nestled between the Blackstairs Mountains and Mount Leinster. At its heart is Borris House, the ancestral home of the MacMurrough Kavanaghs whose family heritage includes former Irish kings.

This royal estate is where culture vultures descended on this weekend for a niche festival. The Festival of Writing and Ideas focuses on words in various forms – storytelling, poetry, books with a dash of musical events.

Ben Andersen, Lemn Sissay, Alan Yentob and Jon Ronson at the Festival of Writing and Ideas in Borris. Photo: Frank Smith

Sunday’s events kicked off with a packed marquee for a mix of Ukraine-themed music and lyrics. Hot House Flower, Fiachna O Braonáin, played Sliabh na mBan on a low whistle followed by readings. I enjoyed ‘One Armed Chef’, Giles Duley’s description of how to make borscht, the Ukrainian sour soup; Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 News told a political joke and John Illsley from Dire Straits closed the proceedings with a rendition of Brothers in Arms.

Fiachna Ó Braonáin and Laurie Anderson in Borris.  Photo: Frank Smith
Fiachna Ó Braonáin and Laurie Anderson in Borris. Photo: Frank Smith

Other musical interludes include restaurant critic Jay Rayner, seated in front of a small white grand piano, delivering a mellow jazz set with his wife. He also included a good thread on the scattering of his parents’ ashes.

“As kids, we were all encouraged to invent stuff with a certain amount of reality to drive it forward — that’s my legacy,” said Laurie Anderson, who was a compelling storyteller in conversation with Alan Yentob.

John Illsley (Dire Straits) and Fiachna Ó Braoináin (Hothouse Flowers) at Borris.  Photo: Frank Smith
John Illsley (Dire Straits) and Fiachna Ó Braoináin (Hothouse Flowers) at Borris. Photo: Frank Smith

My favorite storyteller of the day was filmmaker David Puttnam, who told stories that made his audience laugh and cry in equal measure.

Around the weekend’s events, husband-and-wife celebrities Sinéad Cusack and Jeremy Irons, dressed in outfits suggesting he could pull out a wrench and fix the boiler, marked the centenary of TS Eliot’s epic poem The Wasteland , in a crowded ballroom. All in all, a stimulating weekend in an enchanting setting.

Lenny Abrahamson (Normal People) and Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Luther) in Borris.  Photo: Frank Smith
Lenny Abrahamson (Normal People) and Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Luther) in Borris. Photo: Frank Smith

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